Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Media Doesn't Care About Michael Causer

I wrote about the murder of Michael Causer, a Liverpudlian gay teenager, a while ago here, and noted at the time that there had not been much national media coverage of the case. The trial of the youths accused of killing him ended a few days ago. One of the youths, Gavin Alker was acquitted, claiming he'd acted in self defence, prompting a protest demonstration in Liverpool. Again, it seems that the story does not appear to be very interesting to the national media, with only The Independent covering it in any detail.

I am feeling cynical this morning, so perhaps if the attack had been a more "fashionable" one - like those youths phoning up Michael's grandfather and saying naughty words down the phone, then the media would have found it more to their tastes. It does seem disgusting that if someone says an abusive word, then it gets pages and pages of media analysis, but an actual physical act of abuse that ends in murder is overlooked.

Perhaps if it had happened in London (where journalists actually live and might have even witnessed it as they staggered home from the Groucho Club) it would have been worth reporting. You can just imagine them: "Liverpool? Where's that? Can I get the tube there? No? Oh well, I can't be bothered darling, anyway, back to that piece on Gok Wan..."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Doll Soup's mysterious benefactor.

He's not mysterious at all, but I like the idea of having a mysterious benefactor. When I started up Doll Soup again in December, I found it really hard to get hold of dolls. The only ones that seem to be in the shops are those vile Bratz dolls these days, who look like old ladies who've had too much plastic surgery - perfect for Morag, but hopeless for the other characters.

So a big thanks to Dan who has donated a big box of dolls and their clothes to me for Doll Soup. I've just put up episode 4,and we have Dan to thank for Switch's new "lesbian chimney sweep" look and Uncle Alistair...
When is enough enough?

I spent the last week in Hong Kong again. It's a shoppers' paradise - apart from the city-sized Habour Mall, there are hundreds of mini-malls everywhere. The only people who did seem to be enjoying themselves in the malls were the enormous 2-dimensional pictures of models. Everyone else looked down-trodden and faintly panicked. Actually, even the models didn't look like they were having fun - they literally and figuratively looked down on the shoppers - as if thinking "this lot are fugly!"

What I find particularly disturbing about this rampant commercialism is that a large proportion of the models are caucasian. Now it's bad enough being told that you're not young enough or attractive enough (which is the implicit message of most advertising), but to be told you're from the wrong ethnic group and NEVER have a chance to change that, is pretty miserable. Sales of skin-lighteners are high in Asia. Ironically, the West has a big market in self-tanning lotions. No matter where you live, advertisers are telling you "You're the wrong colour!"

The one product I did purchase was a book called Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More by John Naish. The book's central premise is that we are all making ourselves miserable by continually striving for more, be it more stuff, more work, more food, more happiness or more productivity. We need to overcome our evolutionary programming before we exhaust the planet's resources and drive ourselves bonkers.

It's probably a message you know already. I've read it in similar books, and I think gradually it is starting to have an impact. Now more than ever in my life I have enough money to buy what I want. Except I'm spending less. There was a point where I would go to Manchester town centre every weekend. And I used to spend hundreds of pounds a month on DVDs. Now I'll maybe buy a computer game once every couple of months instead. I rarely buy new clothes - and if they get torn, I get them mended rather than buying new ones. I'm not commuting from Bristol any more so that's a lot of money saved on train fares. I live in a town centre so I shop for food on a daily basis, which means I don't end up buying too much food once a week and then having to throw much of it away. Shopping just doesn't do that much for me any more.

One interesting question which Naish's book raises, however, is, what would happen if we all stopped consuming as much? The author isn't able to fully answer the question, and nor is he able to find any economist or politician who can. He notes that the government sends out contradictory messages - advocating sustainability, but at the same time being wed to the capitalist system which requires us to keep making more stuff and buying more stuff in an ever increasing spiral.

I suspect that we might be about to find out what will happen if we stop buying stuff (at least on a smaller scale). In the short-term it'll mean a loss of jobs. But what will those people do instead? What will all the ex-advertisers, ex-fashion designers, ex-manufacturers of new furniture, new cars, new televisions, new everything do if we decided that what we had was good enough? Maybe in some enlightened future age we will be able to put aside our collective acquisitive natures - but until it is genetically altered out of us - I doubt it.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Big and Strong

In the 1980s, this vaccuous piece of pop nonsense made the charts.

I was about 16 when it came out, and despite becoming aware of my own sexuality, the gaudy naffness of the song and video didn't do much for me. This wasn't the case for my friend Peter, who years later confessed that he had loved So Macho. With his big bouffant hair and big round glasses (it was the 80s after all), Peter, who was about as unfashionable as they come and never listened to chart music, somehow obtained a copy of So Macho on tape and played it on a loop in his car on the way to work - the lyrics becoming like an anthem to his life (and the years of cottaging that came later).

If you have any doubt about the gay subtext of the song, then consider that the B side was called Cruising.

Bizarrely, the song was co-written by one George Hargreaves - a fundamentalist preacher who unsuccessfully stood for public office. He challenged MSP Patrick Harvie at the Scottish elections in 2007, calling Harvie, who was re-elected for the Green party representing the Glasgow region, a "gay fundamentalist."

Hargreaves is now back in the news - he's paid for adverts to go on buses that say "There definitely is a God. So join The Christian Party and enjoy your life."

If there's ever a stranger story, I'd like to hear it.

In the meantime, I'd like to thank Mr Hargreaves for providing my friend with such a deliciously low-brow and quick route to discovering his sexuality. His jolly, if somewhat tacky song really brightened up his formative years. And I do hope that Mr Hargreaves manages to resolve the demons he seems to be struggling with.